Former Tesla executive leading Ford’s low-cost EV development project

07.02.2024

 

Ford is actively venturing into the electric vehicle (EV) domain through its skunkworks initiative, helmed by former Tesla and Ford Advanced EV development leader, Alan Clarke. Situated in Irvine, California, the project has been in progress for approximately two years, aiming to create an affordable electric vehicle. Notably, Clarke collaborates with engineers from Auto Motive Power (AMP), an EV power startup acquired by Ford in November 2023. Anil Paryani, the founder of AMP and a former colleague of Clarke at Tesla, is also a key member of the skunkworks team.

The ongoing skunkworks project is dedicated to crafting a third-generation EV. While Ford has not disclosed specific project details or a timeline, CEO Jim Farley indicated during the fourth-quarter earnings call that the team is concentrating on a “low-cost” EV platform. This aligns with Ford’s strategic shift towards smaller EV products, emphasizing cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and advancements in battery technology.

Farley expressed confidence in the skunkworks team, emphasizing their expertise and the creation of a versatile platform intended for deployment across diverse vehicle types. This platform will serve as the cornerstone for software and services, supporting Ford’s commercial unit.

Ford’s commitment to EVs is part of its adaptation to changing market dynamics, as the company has postponed $12 billion in investments due to evolving consumer preferences and softened demand for specific battery-electric vehicle categories. Nevertheless, Ford remains committed to future products, with plans to unveil its second-generation EV platform in 2025 for the T3 electric truck and a three-row SUV.

The automotive sector’s growing competitiveness in the EV segment, led by major players like Tesla and Chinese OEMs, is acknowledged by Ford. The company aims to ensure its EVs are both cost-effective and efficient, evident in its decision to establish a dedicated skunkworks team, underscoring its commitment to innovation and maintaining a competitive edge in the EV market.

In 2022, Ford underwent a corporate restructuring, dividing the company into three distinct units: Ford Pro, Ford Blue, and Ford Model e. Ford Pro focuses on the commercial sector, Ford Blue manages internal combustion engine and hybrid vehicles, and Ford Model e is dedicated to connectivity and electric vehicles. Despite Ford’s profits being primarily derived from gas-powered and hybrid vehicles, the growth in the Ford Pro unit has offset challenges in the EV business.

Despite reporting a fourth-quarter loss of $526 million in 2023, Ford remains optimistic about its future outlook. The company anticipates generating between $10 billion and $12 billion in adjusted pre-tax earnings, exceeding expectations and resulting in a 6.3% surge in share prices during after-hours trading.

The low-cost EV development project spearheaded by Alan Clarke underscores Ford’s determination to compete effectively in the EV market. Leveraging his experience at Tesla and collaborating with a talented team of engineers, Clarke aims to establish a flexible EV platform that will drive Ford’s success in the evolving automotive landscape.

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